Review: “Blood Of My Enemy” by Winds Of Plague

Since 2013’s “Resistance” which saw frontman Johnny Plague in the Tom Hardy Bane outfit from Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises”, a lot has changed for Winds of Plague. First a hiatus following their support run for Bleeding Through‘s farewell tour and then a huge line-up change. 2008-2012 drummer Art Cruz has returned, replacing Brandon Galindo. Cruz had last appeared on the bands much loved “Against The World” album in 2011, which saw the bands huge single “California” take the band to the next level with a bit of help from Terror‘s Martin Stewart and John Mishima. So aside from Johnny Plague, the original line-up is completely gone, though that should come as no surprise for a band that has featured no less than 25 different musicians since there 2002 inception. So given the re-tooled line-up, what have the Upland California Symphonic Deathcore crew recorded?

“A New Day” introduces the album in the fashion that was heard on earlier Winds of Plague albums. Orchestral build up through subtlety before exploding into the blast beats and guttural roar of the opening of “Nameless Walker”. The Symphonic Deathcore of the bands earlier work in written all over the song with a powerful Last Samurai theme running through the song. It’s a pummelling opening that sets the tone with the bands traditional aggression matched off against stirring orchestral work. “Kings Of Carnage” has a more groove laden attack and has an anthemic quality. The minimalist gang chant adds a call and response option for the live arena and Jonny Plague’s at times almost harsh whispered vocal against the regular bark adds another layer. “Soul Eater” returns to the blast beats and controlled aggression of the opening track with a well constructed flow and high intensity that twists and turns without letting go. The mention of the bands name in the chorus “born upon the Winds of Plague, I’ve come to take you away…” is a nice touch.

“From Failure, Comes Clarity” starts with a slow build that acts as a pallet cleanser before the gang chant vocal bursts into a breakdown and “Blegh”. The play off between the gang chant and Plague’s bark is highlighted with the first vocal from Adrienne Cowan on the album. The drop into the softer moment in the centre of the track and rise back is a masterstroke. The songs rise and fall grooves and symphonic flares showcases all of the sides of the band. Album title track “Blood Of My Enemy” introduces more vocals from Adrienne Cowan to contrast Johnny Plague and while lyrically picks up themes of preparing for the final battle. There is a beauty to the contrast within both the layered sound of the symphonic parts and the central breakdowns. The slow build through Oriental Mandolins into pile driving guitars before slowing up give Cowan’s vocals more space and then driving down into an almost beatdown hardcore breakdown is really something else. “Snakeskin” then reverts back to the earlier sound, delivering a message of how to achieve your aims. “Never Alone” has a haunting melodic opening before suddenly leaping like a venomous snake to bite with a jack hammer like blast beat and guttural roar.

“5150” demonstrates how good the song writing is on the album. Starting with a haunting melody before a whirlwind of drums and shredding guitars before an almost eerie shadow-side like darkness that then builds back via a bouncy riff with a smoothness and refinement that lesser lights would struggle with. Whoever upset Johnny Plague has been delivered a demonstration of the bands ability while being lashed by the frontman’s vocal battery. “Either Way You Lose” maintains the energy with frantic drumming and dark symphonic tones, in the live arena the gang chants will be crowd chants. “A Walk Among The Dead” utilizes driving guitar work as the spine of the song while then building the layers of synths and drum patterns around it. “Dark Waters” picks up the Oriental tones and themes once more for a final flurry during its opening as with the album title track and then builds into the guitar work and that now trademark sound that the album has.

Noah Sebastian of Bad Omens and Joakim Karlsson production work is fantastic. The pair have helped Winds Of Plague deliver an album that rather than focus purely on the heavier elements of their sound, instead introduces light and shade while by the same token maintaining the core elements that brought the fans to the band in the first place. The album is lyrically soaked in underdog spirit, themes of rising from the dead, returning from the grave and preparing for war run through all of the songs and there is a theme of sorts in the form of the last samurai. There is a re-connection to some of the bands older material within those themes. The album has some stunning musicianship and despite not having the heavier sound of some of the bands earlier work, it has fantastic flow and energy. [8.5/10]

Track listing

1. “A New Day
2. “Nameless Walker
3. “Kings Of Carnage
4. “Soul Eater
5. “From Failure, Comes Clarity
6. “Blood Of My Enemy
7. “Snakeskin
8. “Never Alone
9 .“5150
10. “Either Way You Lose
11. “A Walk Among The Dead
12.  “Dark Waters

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